COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - The National Rifle Association is rolling out its suggestions to improve school safety. The group put together a special task force to look at the issue after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The 225 page study recommends school train and arm at least one staff member. According to the report, response time is key to preventing shooting deaths, but the proposal to allow guns on campus has many teachers upset.
The American Federation of Teachers called it a "cruel hoax" that won't protect children and schools and WINK News found much of that same feeling around southwest Florida.
Dan Massiello, a Collier County resident says, "teachers are trained to teach children, they're not trained to shoot guns."
From parents to teachers the suggestion of putting guns in the hands of educators is sparking controversy.
"I do not feel that is the answer to keeping our kids safer," says Tanya Castro.
Shelly Saksa, a teacher from Wisconsin, says, "even with training I would be uncomfortable carrying one in my classroom."
The study sponsored by the NRA suggests 40 to 60 hours of training for school employees who pass background checks.
"I don't think you'll find people lining up to take on the responsibility in the schools. We'd prefer to have trained professional county sheriff's in our schools," says Terry Clark, a 5th grade teacher at Lely Elementary.
Clark says arming teachers or staff puts them in a dual role and raises too many concerns.
"Having a trained sheriff's deputy and having teachers who may have gone through a brief training, those are two different things," says Clark. In Collier County there are currently armed deputies patrolling most of the schools, Clark would like to see deputies at all locations with the focus on arming deputies versus teachers. "We are very fortunate to have the coverage we do, we just think they can do better."
The Collier County School District sent out the following statement: "We are fortunate to have a high visibility of armed law enforcement officers servicing all of our schools in Collier County. However, we continue to assess our safety plans and procedures to determine any further needs or enhancements."
Lee County School District Superintendent Joseph Burke sent out the following statement: "While the role of the teacher may take on various forms during the course of a day, instructor, mentor, coach, etc…., a teacher should not take the role of armed protector.
This premise stands to create an environment among teachers and students where the focus shifts from teaching and learning to concern and conversation about who has a gun and who does not, and why.
Along with the Florida School Board Association, I advocate for any legislation and funding that places School Resource Officers on every campus, every day. The presence of a law enforcement officer(s) not only provides students the opportunity to build relationships with law enforcement personnel, but provides a symbol and real sense of safety and order within and outside of the school.
The move to arm teachers is a distraction from the real issue of severe funding cuts that have occurred at the federal and state level for school security and safety initiatives. No one is better equipped to protect our students than trained law enforcement personnel. Government officials serious about student safety must be equally serious about funding initiatives to secure it."